I always find it a bit of a surprise that Christians, who one presumes are persons anxious to get into the Kingdom of Heaven, are so often very vague about what it’s going to be like when they get there.

It’s for this reason that I have been happy that, fairly early on in my life, I ran into the writings of Emmanuel Swedenborg.

Swedenborg was born in Sweden in 1688, the son of a Lutheran bishop. After graduating from the University of Uppsala, he spent further years in Europe and England, including study under Sir Isaac Newton, and the astronomer Halley, of Halley’s Comet fame. He returned to Sweden to take a senior position as a civil servant, engaged in the development of that country’s mineral resources.

From early years, he appears to have had psychic gifts, but it was in the last fourteen years before his death in 1772 that he found himself admitted as a privileged visitor into the spiritual world. This resulted in a flow of volumes, originally written in Latin, that form a comprehensive and incredibly detailed account of the World Beyond, written with a precision and objectivity that only a civil servant could muster.

His “Heaven and its Wonders and Hell” gives a picture of what the soul may expect after leaving this body. It is a world where appearances are not so different from the earth we live in, but the laws under which life goes on are not the same. Time does not exist. Space and distance are determined by degrees of love rather than kilometers. Souls become angels, and live rather like individual cells in different organs of one great body, their place being fixed according to their degrees of spiritual maturity and interests.

Settling one’s place to live in the spiritual world depends largely on the loves we have developed in this universe below. Those whose love has been of God and of one’s neighbour find for themselves a compatible spot and companionship in the heavenly realm, where God’s love and wisdom pour out on them like the heat and light of this world’s sun. Those whose love has been of self and material things turn their backs on the intense love of God, which is perceived as intolerable heat, and live in a Hellish world of distorted values and perceptions, gnashing of teeth and wailing.

No, I can’t tell you if any of this bears any relationship to reality—the best I can say is that in the victims group I attend, I have been surprised how many have been the cases of parents or relatives who have lost children to violent death, including myself, at some point receiving some kind of dream or symbolic message from the deceased, indicating that they are all right.

What does strike me, however, is the way in which our much vaunted capitalist system, making as it does a virtue of selfishness, greed, materialism and often false advertising, as well as war and the exploitation of the physically or economically powerless, let alone the ecology of Mother Earth, seems destined to fill the Kingdom of Hell with plenty of its devotees.

Perhaps those fundamentalist Muslims who are striving to repel the forces of “the Great Satan” by sacrificing their lives with explosives in the hope of Paradise, are really on to something.

Who knows?

– Gemini, 2007*